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Misawa vs. Kawada vs. Kobashi vs. Taue - Comparing the Four Corners

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Since there's been a trend of doing these comparison thread, I figured I'd ask another tough one.

 

I'm interested to see how you people would rank these guys in comparison to each other?

 

How would you rank their peaks in the 90's? Their pre peaks from before 1990? Their post peak work from in the new mellenium?

 

Ranking these guys is proving very tricky for me in my GWE drafts.

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I'll start off by offering a take most will say is crazy, but of the lot I prefer Taue and think Taue is actually the best. After that comes Kawada, then Misawa, and finally Kobashi. I feel all are great, but there's something about Taue that I feel is just better than the rest. Now, I know most are going to tell me I'm crazy and wrong, and I'm okay with that. Later on I'll offer more thoughts based on responses.

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I'll take it to my grave that Kobashi was the least of the four. Taue gets shit on for not being as dynamic as the other guys, which makes the nickname "Dynamic T" that much more awesome. I don't know if I think Taue's the best, as Kawada is the best seller I've ever seen and Misawa is the quintessential ace in my eyes, but I'm wondering if I'll be the high vote on Taue in the GWE poll.

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I love Taue. My gut has him at #2 behind only Kawada, though I'm not sure my brain can justify that.

 

The Holy Demon Army is one of my favorite tag teams of all time, and I tend to enjoy Taue's singles work more than most.

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I'll start off by offering a take most will say is crazy, but of the lot I prefer Taue and think Taue is actually the best. After that comes Kawada, then Misawa, and finally Kobashi. I feel all are great, but there's something about Taue that I feel is just better than the rest. Now, I know most are going to tell me I'm crazy and wrong, and I'm okay with that. Later on I'll offer more thoughts based on responses.

 

That's where I am right now but I might switch Misawa and Kawada. Misawa's layering of spots in matches and in between matches (and maybe other people should get credit for this as well but it always seems like him that does it) is just too down my alley.

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It's funny that 3-4 people have come straight into this thread to basically say "I know it's crazy but I love Taue", and I am adding myself to the pile. I wonder how many people it takes to say that before saying it is no longer crazy?

 

Anyway I am nowhere near ready to answer this question with any authority (I'm still in 1991), but I would like to leap onto the Taue bandwagon too. I love the guy. Physically he's like a less freakish looking Giant Baba for the 90s, and I also love me some Baba. Taue is great as a dick just dishing out punishment to Kawada or whoever. For an awkward lanky fuck he also has some pretty neat moves up his sleeve, and is pretty good at taking a beating. Lots of love for Taue so far.

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I have two lists.

 

Taue

Kawada

Misawa

Kobashi

 

That's where my heart lies. I love Taue so very much for the work he did as the guy nobody appreciated. If I have a spirit wrestler it is Akira Taue. I love how he puts matches together, I love the way he carries himself and how he does everything with an understated quality. The other three are the flashier, easier to love for the big stuff guys. Taue has far more limitations and knows it, but manages to be just a step behind all the way through. I would argue that once the new millennium hits he is the best of the four because he simply continues to work around his own limitations rather than having them imposed on him by time and finding the need to adapt. If we're going by purely by how much I love the character and the approach it is Taue by miles. A big part of this is that I tend to be very quiet and understated, don't care so much about how something looks as opposed to what it accomplishes and constantly battle with my own awkwardness and limitations. So yeah, my spirit wrestler.

 

And here's the one that my brain imposes itself on.

 

Kawada

Misawa

Kobashi

Taue

 

Kawada as a character is just up the street from Taue. I had a cranky, tough, never-back-down great uncle when I was younger that didn't give any part of a shit what anyone thought of what he said or did. But he also had such pride in everything he did that it came out looking pristine. And my understanding is that he was a straight ahead boxer who could take a punch with the best in his younger days. For a long time I wondered why I love Kawada so much and I finally figured it out. Oh, and Kawada was one Hell of an incredible pro wrestler. Misawa was and always will be the quintessential ace of a promotion. When he was on nobody could touch him and that came through in every big match. Kobashi in 1990-1994 was one of my favorite wrestlers of all time. I know he gets out of hand a lot after that, but damn when he was coming up through the ranks he was the best fired-up underdog babyface of all time. As much as I HATE some of his later performances I can't take that away from him. Taue is simply a great wrestler who can play babyface pretty well and heel to a T. In most companies during most time periods that makes you a #1 or 2 guy with a career downside of being the gatekeeper for the next generation. In 90s All Japan that means you end up being the guy to do a quick job to Akiyama to help put the young guy over and get him ready for Misawa while always being undervalued by the majority of fans. And since I mentioned Akiyama, he's probably got Taue beat on this one too as much as I hate to admit it.

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It's a lot easier to come to the conclusion Taue is the best one when your only exposure to him are matches against the other elite All Japan workers. The notion no one appreciated him is fucking ridiculous. Just watch this:

http://youtu.be/Z90PuVLG6Ks?t=24m6s

He was a great wrestler. But rating him as highly as Misawa and Kawada is underselling them more than anything.

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I haven't watched a large volume of peak AJPW in years, but I would go Kawada, Misawa, Taue, Kobashi on first impulse, and even then I'm not entirely sure I wouldn't bump Kobashi above Taue....and I love Taue to the point where if someone had him top five I wouldn't even question it. I think that he was that great at what he did and brought to the table. I just can't honestly say I think he is a better wrestler than Kawada or Misawa. Don't thing he had the range or versatility of either guy, nor do I think he was capable of being the focal point of a high level rivalry they way they were.

 

What gets really tricky is when you throw Akiyama into the mix and there I might be the nutcase. Because as time goes on and he adds a classic or two each every couple of years to the resume, to go along with the general way he carries himself from match to match these days, I have started to see him as a guy that is lateral or superior to all of those guys.

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I think Akiyama is fucking great, and he's been having high end matches for like 20 years now.

 

At this point I have him above Kobashi, but I'm not sure where he ranks in comparison to the others.

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Living in Japan probably skewers my perspective, but I'd go Misawa, Kawada, Taue, Kobashi.

 

I agree with GOTNW that rating Taue as highly as Misawa and Kawada is underselling them, but for a long time I did the same. I always always fond of what he brought to the table from 1990-94 when the standard line was that he improved dramatically in '95. What I don't really agree with is all this praise for him being a guy who knew his limitations and was a clever worker. During that period he was finding his feet and those limitations really were limitations. The dude was awesome, but I think people go overboard with the credit when everything I've heard is that he didn't exactly eat, sleep, breathe pro-wrestling.

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Man I love Taue and wrote around 8k words last year on why he deserves to be in the WON HOF on a candiacy that is largely based on quality work.

 

That being said my order is as follows:

 

MIsawa (#1 candidate and guaranteed top 3)

Kobashi (outside shot at #1 and guaranteed top 10)

Kawada (Top 10 candidate)

 

Taue (possible top 25 pick)

 

 

Kobashi seems to be taking a beating in this thread compared to the others so I wanted to focus on him. Any huge candidacy for him hinges on the NOAH run but for the vast majority of it, I love it. I have the 12/2000 Akiyama match high, 2003-2004 is littered with great stuff including classics vs. Misawa, Honda, Taue, Takayama, Ogawa, and Akiyama. I need to take a closer look at the 2005 stuff vs. Sasaki, Tenryu and Joe matches but I know I was high on them when I watched 5-6 years ago. Even his 2008 farewell tour vs. K-Office matches was entertaining. Essentially, I think Kobashi is a Jumbo level candidate with the same amount of longevity. Kobashi took 2001 off and 2006 but between that we have essentially his career from 1989-2009 which covers a twenty year span. In 1989, he was already in MOTYC as the 7/15/89 match indicates. His appearances in 1990-1991 have had him starting to put things together on his own but certainly not bad as a #3 on Misawa's group and being a compelling prospect underdog. 1992-1993 is where he really shines first in the tag team with Kikuchi where he turns in his first ***** match and performance in the 5/25/92 tag and then 1993 is where he broke the doors down and has a legit claim at being top in the world in a loaded year. 1994 showed him continue to develop in his role with Misawa and have great matches when asked upon as a singles star. Ditto 1995/1996. In 1997, with both Misawa and Kawada faltering a bit, Kobashi shot above them. He had by far the best match with Hase out of all three and really pushed Misawa to limits that I don't think even the Kawada feud reached.

 

1998 is where the branches of Kobashi really start to stray. I know some dislike this portion of Kobashi but he is neck and neck with Tamura for my WOTY for 1998 and would have to be #1 for having 3 of my top 5 matches of the year. All three matches (vs. Kawada 6/12/98, vs. Akiyama 7/24/98, vs. Misawa 10/31/98) are wrestled differently. Ditto another great outing vs. Taue in September. He is still high end in 1999 with the great Burning matches, vs Vader in the Champ final. 2000 has the Omori Carny final.

 

I think for Kobashi to be rated this low, you essentially have to discount everything 1998 onward. I think his comp from 1990-1999 vs. Kawada is interesting as I struggle to see how Kawada comes out ahead unless you vastly prefer the Misawa vs. Kawada feud and the Jumbo vs. Kawada matches.

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I'm going to make a few superficial suggestions here:

 

1.) A lot of the people who are drawn to Taue are people who came to these matches first in the last few years. Not all, but a lot. This suggests one of two things:

2.) That A ) Taue is more accessible than Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi and that more watching/rewatching, would reveal more nuance with the latter three or

3.) That B ) Values have changed significantly since the early-mid-late 90s and Taue brings elements to the table that were not valued as much during those times and are valued more now and/or Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi bring elements that are valued less.

 

The cynical argument would that people are being difficult on purpose but I refuse to ever suggest that for our community.

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The thing that challenges me with Taue is that while I love all his series with the other pillars and stalwarts in All Japan 1990's, they pale in comparison to the other series IMO.

 

Taue vs. Misawa would be a landmark feud for almost any worker. One ***** all time classic match, other **** matches throughout, hardly any stinkers. Still I take Misawa/Kobashi and Misawa/Kawada over it as they reached that tip top level multiple times.

 

Taue vs. Kawada was a fun, violent feud in 1991 that does bring something to the table. When they revisited that match throughout the years, it was always intense and struck me as something different. Taue vs. Kawada against Kobashi vs. Kawada is a close comparison but I am really on board with thinking that the 1995 draw, 1996 draw, and 10/93 match is close to everything that Kawada vs. Taue did with the possible exception of the 95 Carny match. Even with that match, I still don't think it is as good as 6/12/98 so I will give Kawada vs. Kobashi the slight nod.

 

Taue vs. Hansen never got much of a showcase and the one that comes to mind is the ribs Carny 94 match. This is miles away from the top matches that Hansen had with Kawada and Kobashi and a decent comparison to the disappointing Hansen vs. Misawa series.

 

Taue vs. Doc from Carny 96 is great. Better than 7/94 Doc vs Misawa, Carny final 94 vs. Kawada, or 8/93 vs. Kobashi. I tend to think not.

 

Taue has this awesome little moments sprinkled throughout the 2000's like the match vs. Nagata. Kobashi has the top matches of the 2000's, Kawada and Misawa have the singles matches early in their career vs. Jumbo.

 

All of that is to say that Taue was a super worker that does present a unique flavor to his matches that may be more aesthetically appeasing on the onset, but he still strikes me as the clear #4 in this argument.

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Taue being pimped is not really a new thing. I don't want to get into a whole big "there are no original ideas" thing but it's been done on various boards over the years by various people who came to this stuff years after the fact. The idea has simply been rejected less, or should I say embraced more, as it becomes less and less sacrosanct that there were the Big Three + Taue. Again, I don't want to get into any pissing contests about who said what, when, about Taue, but the established wisdom for a long time was that he was a late bloomer. A lot of people have challenged that over the years as they've become endeared with early 90s Taue.

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Yeah, please let's not go into "we're discovering Akira Taue in 2015" mode. It was embarrassing enough with Tenryu a few years back...

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Re: the previous trend of discussion and new ideas and what not. Frankly, I don't care a lot. I appreciate that these matches and this era has been so picked over/evaluated that there are no new original thoughts. I'm not going to get into a big JDW/Parv argument about that.

 

As late as two years ago I felt like there was a strong dogma. It's noticeable that so many people are leaning against that, in fact, that a majority of the people new to these matches are leaning against that. Literally, someone above noticed it. And that's what people are responding to. I'm not saying that the world's being changed or anything. I think it's just interesting. Maybe it's being heavily overstated.

 

Maybe it's just the nature of PWO that nothing is sacred here.

 

I've seen a dozen or so Taue singles matches. That's a fair number for the other 3 as well. What I can say very easily is that he was my favorite guy in the more legendary tags, which is a lot of what I go off of with this given my admittedly limited amounts of watching. I fully admit that there may be nuance that I'm not prepared to get as of yet. It's probably an equal combination

 

Watching Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi matches (especially from 93-94 on) tends to feel like homework to me.

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I would rank them Misawa-Kobashi-Kawada-Taue, with the first three being far closer to each other than to Taue. I'm no Taue hater by any stretch of the imagination, but come on. Also, the anti-Kobashi backlash has gone way too far. In his GWE thread, you've got people claiming that he was incapable of structuring matches on his own and was terrible at limb selling. They're making him out to be a proto-Davey Richards.

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I fucking love Kobashi, but he's never been quite as interesting as the other Corners for me, for various reasons.

 

But still, being my least favorite Corner will still net Kobashi a spot on my GWE list in the 10-15 range.

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Kawada, Misawa, Kobashi, Taue.

 

I don't think anyone in wrestling has ever come across as a bigger badass than Kawada. You could put him across the ring from Brock Lesnar and I'd say poor Brock.

Holy shit that is the craziest and most awesome dream match anyone has ever uttered!

 

prime Kawada vs today Brock!!!!!!!

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